BUILT TO SUIT: A CASE STUDY OF HOW LOCAL PROGRAMS CAN ADDRESS LOCAL TEACHER SHORTAGES
, B. Brown2
1University of Arkansas (UNITED STATES)
2Bath Spa University (UNITED KINGDOM)
Shortages of quality teachers are a common concern in many countries across the world; at the same time, in many countries, the actual number of teachers far exceeds the need. In these cases, while the general public voices concern over perceived teacher “shortages”, the problem is likely better described as a teacher distribution challenge whereby teachers flock to the successful schools in populous areas while the struggling or rural schools continue to struggle with teacher supply issues. These problems are not being solved through traditional teacher pipelines.
One relatively new strategy is the development of “alternative” routes into teaching which reduce the barriers to entering the profession to attract new individuals to the profession. However, to the extent that greater barriers serve as quality control, programs that provide a “fast-track” into teaching must focus on applicant quality. Several organizations around the globe have developed programs that aim to reduce barriers without reducing teacher quality. These include Teach for America (USA), Teach First (UK), and other Teach for All network programs (international); there is some evidence that these programs actually draw high-quality individuals into the field of teaching. Teach for America, for example, has been rigorously studied; these studies find that teachers from the program are as good at teaching reading and slightly better at teaching math than teachers from more “traditional” routes. Critics, though, raise concerns about the “parachute” effect that these programs can have with teachers leaving soon after the program and having no local ties to the community or the students. In response to these criticism, some have developed more localized alternative teacher training programs that attempt to imitate the national programs. These programs offer a similar strategy of fast-track training and more open recruitment and entry while focusing more locally on recruitment and local school needs. Can such programs increase the quantity of teachers while improving teacher quality?
This case study looks at one such “local” program. The Arkansas Teacher Corps (ATC) started in 2013 to address local teacher distribution issues in the state. Focusing on local recruitment and fast track, high quality initial teacher training, this upstart began to address the teacher supply needs of schools in disadvantaged areas in the state. Over the past 5 years, more than 500 applicants have applied to the program and over 100 have been selected to join. This case study will describe the types of individuals who were attracted to such a program, however new, and compares how this contrasts with the teacher workforce made up of teachers from more “traditional” training programs. We find that applicants to the program come from diverse backgrounds, attended quality universities, and maintain high incoming academic indicators (exam scores and college GPAs). Could this model of a more local approach to “alternative” routes into teaching be a viable option for localities across the world to address teacher distribution issues while maintaining quality? This study attempt to shed light on that question.